Diaphragmatic neuromechanical coupling and mechanisms of hypercapnia during inspiratory loading

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2014 Jul 1;198:32-41. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2014.03.004. Epub 2014 Apr 16.


We hypothesized that improved diaphragmatic neuromechanical coupling during inspiratory loading is not sufficient to prevent alveolar hypoventilation and task failure, and that the latter results primarily from central-output inhibition of the diaphragm and air hunger rather than contractile fatigue. Eighteen subjects underwent progressive inspiratory loading. By task failure all developed hypercapnia. Tidal transdiaphragmatic pressure (ΔPdi) and diaphragmatic electrical activity (ΔEAdi) increased during loading - the former more than the latter; thus, neuromechanical coupling (ΔPdi/ΔEAdi) increased during loading. Progressive increase in extra-diaphragmatic muscle contribution to tidal breathing, expiratory muscle recruitment, and decreased end-expiratory lung volume contributed to improved neuromechanical coupling. At task failure, subjects experienced intolerable breathing discomfort, at which point mean ΔEAdi was 74.9±4.9% of maximum, indicating that the primary mechanism of hypercapnia was submaximal diaphragmatic recruitment. Contractile fatigue was an inconsistent finding. In conclusion, hypercapnia during acute loading primarily resulted from central-output inhibition of the diaphragm suggesting that acute loading responses are controlled by the cortex rather than bulbopontine centers.

Keywords: Breathing pattern; Dyspnea; Hypercapnia; Muscle fatigue; Phrenic nerve; Respiratory muscles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Wall / physiopathology
  • Adult
  • Air
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Diaphragm / physiopathology*
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology
  • Electromyography
  • Exhalation / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercapnia / physiopathology*
  • Inhalation / physiology*
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation / adverse effects*
  • Pressure
  • Respiratory Muscles / physiopathology


  • Carbon Dioxide